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How to Become a Claims Adjuster, Appraiser, Examiner, or Investigator

A high school diploma or equivalent is typically the minimum requirement to work as an adjuster, appraiser, examiner, or investigator.


A high school diploma or equivalent is typically the minimum requirement to work as an adjuster, appraiser, examiner, or investigator. However, employers sometimes prefer to hire applicants who have a bachelor’s degree or some insurance-related work experience or vocational training. Auto damage appraisers typically have a 2-year postsecondary award or experience working in an auto repair shop, identifying and estimating the cost of automotive repair.

Different backgrounds or college coursework are best for different types of work in this occupation. For example, a business or an accounting background might be best for someone to specialize in claims of financial loss due to strikes, equipment breakdowns, or merchandise damage. College training in architecture or engineering is helpful for adjusting industrial claims, such as those involving damage from fires or other accidents. A legal background is beneficial to someone handling workers' compensation and product liability cases. A medical background is useful for examiners working on medical and life insurance claims.

Although auto damage appraisers are not required to have a college education, most companies prefer to hire people who have formal training, experience, or knowledge and technical skills to identify and estimate the cost of automotive repair. Many vocational colleges offer 2-year programs in auto body repair and teach students how to estimate the costs to repair damaged vehicles.

For investigator jobs, a high school diploma or equivalent is the typical education requirement. Most insurance companies prefer to hire people trained as law enforcement officers, private investigators, claims adjusters, or examiners because these workers have good interviewing and interrogation skills.


At the beginning of their careers, claims adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators work on small claims, under the supervision of an experienced worker. As they learn more about claims investigation and settlement, they are assigned larger, more complex claims.

Auto damage appraisers typically get on-the-job training, which may last several months. This training usually involves working under supervision of a more experienced appraiser while estimating damage costs until the employer decides the trainee is ready to do estimates on his or her own.


Licensing requirements for claims adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators vary by state. Some states have few requirements, and others require either completing pre-licensing education, a satisfactory score on a licensing exam, or both.

In some states, claims adjusters employed by insurance companies can work under the company license and need not become licensed themselves.

Public adjusters may need to meet separate or additional requirements.

Some states that require licensing also require a certain number of continuing education credits per year to renew the license. Federal and state laws and court decisions affect how claims must be handled and what insurance policies can and must cover. Examiners working on life and health claims must stay up-to-date on new medical procedures and prescription drugs. Examiners working on auto claims must be familiar with new car models and repair techniques. Workers can fulfill their continuing education requirements by attending classes or workshops, by writing articles for claims publications, or by giving lectures and presentations.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Adjusters and examiners must evaluate whether the insurance company is obligated to pay a claim and determine the amount to pay. Adjusters must carefully consider various pieces of information to reach a decision.

Communication skills. Claims adjusters and investigators must get information from a wide range of people, including claimants, witnesses, and medical experts. They must know the right questions to ask to gather the information they need.

Interpersonal skills. Adjustors, examiners, and investigators often meet with claimants and others who may be upset by the situation that requires a claim or by the settlement the company is offering. These workers must be understanding and yet firm with their company’s policies.

Math skills. Appraisers must be able to calculate property damage.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition